Movie Review: Wonder Woman—A Hollywood Victory
Believe me, I don’t make that declaration lightly. Conservatives have nothing—and I…mean…nothing—to fear from this film. In point of fact…just the opposite. Our side has every reason under the sun to rejoice, with Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman.
Again, I don’t say that lightly. I love Hollywood and cinema, I’m aware, much more than so many commentators on our side…so I’m aware of the salt you may be reaching for, right now. But let me emphasize: Wonder Woman is perfectly, solidly, 100% Conservative-friendly. You have my word of honor on that.
Is the movie “feminist”? Well…gee, is it possible for feminism to be compatible with Conservatism? I’d say so. You know—true feminists, who want to build women up without tearing men down. Those who don’t seek to destroy, deride, and denigrate the concept of masculinity. Christina Hoff Sommers, Camille Paglia—those who sought and still seek to redeem Second-Wave feminism, and bring actual empowerment back amidst the scourge that is the Third-Wave crowd.
And about that…remember how all those Third-Wavers were whining and complaining about protein bars and Gal Gadot’s hairless armpits?
Well, now that the film’s come out, turns out they still hate it—if the review from Village Voice is any indication. If it can be called a “review”. Honestly…according to one Melissa Anderson, she apparently got excited for some—direct quote—“appealing misandry”…but alas, that was all dashed once Diana first saves Steve.
Oh, and, uh…she accuses the movie of “mansplaining”.
Really, any Conservative reading this who still has doubts about this film ought to give that “review” a look. And then go see the movie. For me, I just might, once it comes out on Blu-Ray, put it on my “Greatest Conservative Films” list. That’ll be my “spoiler review”….
In the meantime—Wonder Woman, spoiler-free:
The framing story has Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), in the interim between Batman v Superman and the upcoming Justice League, receiving a certain photograph from Bruce Wayne. (No, Ben Affleck’s not in this movie. Alas, neither is Amy Adams—a frankly missed opportunity for us to see Diana reaching out to Lois Lane over a parallel heartache….)
The photo causes her to think back to the beginning of her story—beginning in her childhood on the hidden island of Themyscira. It’s much easier to pronounce than it looks. Here, we’re introduced to a little Diana, played with immensely adorable charm by Lilly Aspell. Really, if you don’t find yourself smiling at the girl’s enthusiasm and joyful drive, you have no soul. At all.
Anyway, her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) is a bit…concerned about her daughter’s desire to be a warrior just like the girl’s hero, General Antiope (Robin Wright). Antiope’s absolutely eager to train the girl—and does so, as we see Diana blossoming into womanhood. But in the meantime, Hippolyta’s sure to teach little Diana a legend about Ares, the god of war who rebelled against Zeus and made it his life’s work to corrupt the race of Men and manipulate them into war and barbarism. She mentions that Zeus charged the Amazons—the all-female population of Themyscira—with defending Men against the corruption of Ares. But she firmly states that Ares is long gone…and as such, the Amazons have kept to themselves for centuries. She doesn’t intend to change that.
Antiope doesn’t really share that mindset—telling Hippolyta that she’s being hopelessly naïve in not preparing for war. It’s going to happen, like it or not. (Her speech on that, by the way, should get cheers from the hawks among us.)
Alas, the outside world comes to them—via the crashed plane of Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine—aka Capt. James Tiberius Kirk II). Diana saves him from drowning…and it’s deep mutual fascination at first sight.
Steve’s being pursued by a force of Germans—and after the Amazons, with Steve’s help, defeat them…well, they want answers. Cue the legendary Lasso of Truth comic fans know and love. This begins one of many moments for Pine to show the world that he is the heir to William Shatner. I know, wrong franchise. But I swear, there’s Shatner-isms. One almost wishes the old Linda Carter series had co-starred our beloved T.J. Hooker as Steve. Ah, well….
Anyway, Capt. Trevor brings tails of a world at war—the first “war to end all wars”. He’s gained intelligence about a secret German project headed by Gen. Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and conducted by Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya)—whom the boys in the Allied trenches have named “Dr. Poison”—creating hydrogen-based chemical weapons that could turn the tide of the war, defeating all hope of the proposed Armistice.
Diana immediately suspects Ares is manipulating humanity into the war, and passionately volunteers to go find the criminal god and stop him—and thereby break his warmongering spell and bring peace to the world. Hippolyta tells her that’s all just a legend—which begs for the question, of course, of why she’d told her daughter the story in the first place. She does have a reason, as it turns out, for wanting Diana to stay away from the outside world. But she’s tight-lipped about it…. Regardless, she forbids Diana to go with Steve.
Well, Steve’s going back. As he tells Diana, it’s not that he wants to go back…but he has to. If there’s any chance he can end the war, he’ll have to take it. (We’re all thinking it, folks: “A man’s gotta do…”)
Diana’s inspired by this to go with him—grabbing the lasso, a sacred sword Hippolyta identified as the secret weapon to defeat Ares, and a certain shiny suit of red, white, and blue. Even if it may mean breaking her mother’s law, she must go.
And so begins a tale of high adventure—and deep abiding heart. On the one hand, the war story may remind you of Captain America: The First Avenger, but it’s actually very different—in a good way. Yes, Steve and Diana form a ragtag power team of commandos…but while there is great fun to be had, there’s also pathos. One of Capt. Trevor’s boys suffers PTSD- ridden nightmares. Another is an American Indian who tells Diana about how Steve’s ancestors were the enemies of his own. A third was an actor before the war, and notes how life sometimes takes us away from what we want to do.
And as for Diana, she enters Men’s World gung-ho for glorious adventure—and finds herself fighting frustration over the shades-of-grey of espionage, embodied by Steve’s superior Sir Patrick (David Thewlis)…and tears over the horrific tragedies of civilian suffering over trench warfare. The latter moves her to her first great act of heroism—followed up by Capt. Trevor’s team planning out some beautiful tactics to help her free the nearby town.
That bears emphasis, folks. Steve’s men are heroes. They may be a bit coarse, but they’re noble when it counts, fully deserving of Diana’s respect…and friendship.
The captain himself is confident, decisive, and strong. Steve Trevor is a leader—a man among men, as shown constantly in a way that would please Howard Hawks. “Sensitive”? Only if that’s the modern word for “being a gentleman”. Really, he’s everything a guy would want to be. In another life, he’d have been Captain America. And importantly, he’s the realist balance to Diana’s naïveté…and he sees coming some vital moments where—could it be possible?—our heroine jumps to some hasty assumptions that may or not make things worse. Steve’s all too aware of the darkness in the world—and as he notes, Di may have to consider the possibility that people don’t need Ares to “make” them wage this kind of war….
Meanwhile, their relationship sparks and sparkles. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are wonderful together, with moments of tenderness and wit, and unspoken mutual understanding and respect. And we can understand and believe that Steve is Diana’s proof that, for all the darkness she sees, men are worth fighting alongside.
After all, he’s the first man she’s ever seen. And it’s pretty clear from the beginning that she likes what she sees…to the point of various moments of delightful awkwardness, leading bit-by-bit into knowing flirtation…and then passionate tenderness. And we believe it—and ship them every step of the way.
Gal herself is wonderful as Wonder Woman—conveying at once both innocence and toughness. We see moments of great sweetness, especially in a priceless moment when Diana gushes over a baby, and later when she eats ice cream for the first time. We also see moments of despair—and tearful rage, when driven to a breaking point in a harrowing climax. For all Wonder Woman’s skill and physical strength, she is not invulnerable—she is not Miss Never-Make-A-Mistake. Far from it. Her lovable idealism could and sometimes does get her into big trouble.
Not that she doesn’t have it in herself to get out of it. Thing is, though, she sometimes needs Steve’s help to handle the world as it is—just as he needs her, to do what has to be done. Director Patty Jenkins herself noted that she was not “afraid to make her vulnerable and loving and warm, and not always right, which is absolutely imperative to a leading character.”
As such, the ultimate question is for Diana, and Diana alone: Are the fears of Hippolyta and others all too valid? Does mankind deserve Wonder Woman’s help?
People have talked about issues in the second or third acts (it goes back and forth on which, depending on the reviewer). Honestly…I have no issues with either. Maybe I just loved the characters so much that I didn’t care so much—I don’t know. What I do know is: The story is honest, epic, and heartfelt—everything a superhero movie ought to be. The laughs land, and so do the tears. The music is beautiful, and frankly reminiscent of Howard Shore’s score for Lord Of The Rings.
The supporting cast is all spot-on—including Lucy Davis as Capt. Trevor’s plump and bubbly secretary Etta. And I myself had no real problem with the villains—this is a superhero origin story, so we don’t need too much emphasis on the bad guys, except as a challenge to overcome. But even that aside, I have no complaints. There’s a mystery element, there, so it’s almost required we don’t dwell too much. I certainly won’t.
By the way: A lot of people have made a constant comparison to the original Christopher Reeve Superman film. Uh…okay…? I mean, there’s a scene in an alley and some bullet deflection, but other than that, I don’t see much of a reason to single that one out for emphasis. I’d more readily point to Captain America and Thor, myself….
Now—as to the future…well, I don’t think I’d say “Wonder Woman saved the DCEU*!” Basically, Wonder Woman saved Justice League—making people excited to see it, again. And Justice League will save the DCEU.
Assuming it needed much saving. I mean, the Batman v. Superman Ultimate Cut is a masterpiece, and that just leaves Suicide Squad as a “real” disappointment. Three out of four ain’t bad, so far. Still, if you’re still going by theatrical cuts, fair enough…but WB’s apparently learned its lesson about that.
In the end, Wonder Woman isn’t quite my #1 favorite film in the DCEU—that would be Man of Steel—but you’d better believe it’s a close second. A lot of people, of course, do like Wonder Woman even more—a lot more. With or without a female lead. And in the end, if this movie does have a message, it can be summed up in four simple words:
Wonder Woman is strong—Wonder Woman is empowered—Wonder Woman is free. And nowhere does she have to put down the men in her life to be all of that. In fact…frankly just the opposite.
A Conservative film-goer can ask for nothing more.
Stay film-friendly, my friends.
Movie Grade: A
Buy the movie here.
*(“DC Extended Universe”—That’s the movie universe that began with Man of Steel and goes on to include Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and now Wonder Woman. Marvel has the “MCU”—“Marvel Cinematic Universe”. Avengers, and everything with it.)
Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory. He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests. He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work. Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.
Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com. He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio. In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.